|Case No.||W.P. (C) No. 737 / 2020||Date of Filing||17/07/2020||Status||Pending||Petitioners||The Child Rights Trust and Nina Nayak||Respondents||Ministry of Home Affairs (UOI); Ministry of Labour and Employment (UOI) ; Ministry of Women and Child Development (UOI) ; Ministry of Food and Public Distribution (UOI); National Disaster Management Authority ; National Commission for Protection of Child Rights|
Child Rights Trust (a Bangalore based NGO working extensively in the area of Child Rights) and Ms. Neena Nayak (a child Rights advocate and activist) filed a Writ Petition seeking enforcement of Fundamental Rights, under Articles 14, 15, 19, 21, 21A, 39 and 47 of the Constitution, of migrant children and children of migrant families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Petition seeks to ensure that migrant children and children of migrant workers are provided with proper living conditions, nutrition, health care/immunization, access to education and their protection. The Petition highlights that the lack of present-day assessment of the number and essential needs of migrant children, infants and pregnant and lactating women of migrant families has aggravated their vulnerabilities during the lockdown. The concerns presented in the Petition are as follows:
1. Hazardous Living Condition
The informal worksites and other living/transit site for migrant workers are unhygienic and do not provide for basic living conditions such as food, clothing and shelter. It also exposes them to abuse and harassment.
2. Food Security
With schools and anganwadi’s shut, the access to mid-day meals (implementation of which is arbitrary) and minimum food supply guaranteed under National Food Security Act 2013 has been deprived for the migrant families. This puts migrant children at the risk of nutritional insecurity and malnourishment.
3. Heath Needs of Migrant Children
Discontinuance of health services such as immunization, maternal health care, mental and physical health of children, health-checkups, primary health care and other medical services has increased the vulnerability of the migrant children.
4. Education of Migrant children
Although digital education has been adopted by most schools, the lack of access to technology has deprived migrant children of their right of Right to Free and Compulsory Education. Lack of education and effective monitoring system has resulted in minor children being pushed to child labour, marriages and trafficking.
5. Protection Measures:
There is a need for precautionary measures and effective implementation of Child Protection Units or community level groups to prevent entry of children-in-transit into the labour market. There is also a need for local interventions and dialogue to prevent abuse and exploitation of children of migrant families.
The Petition has also relied on government legislations/policies such as the National Food Security Act 2013, Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009, Juvenile Justice Act 2015, National Disaster Management Act, Commissions for protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, National Policy for Children, 2013 and National Health Policy, 2017 to highlight the duty owed by the government to the migrant children. Additionally, it cites the State’s obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Policy Brief on the Impact of COVID-19 on Children.
The Petitioners have sought that the State undertakes the enumeration and registration of infants and children from migrant families from various sites and centres without delay. Subsequently, the prayers seek for the establishment of Children Assistance centres in all major areas of concentration and the extension of Anganwadi services to ensure supply of nutritious food through the ICDS Scheme/Public distribution schemes. The Respondent must also report on the immunization and primary health care services for migrant children and lactating/pregnant women. Furthermore, a temporary action plan must be drawn for imparting education for migrant children and their transition to schools. In addition to the above-mentioned reliefs, the Petitioner has sought that the Supreme Court direct all local authorities responsible for women & child protection to guarantee safeguards for children from marriage, abuse and exploitation.
The Supreme Court heard the matter on 05.07.2020 and has issued notice to the Respondents.
This post was authored by Almas Shaikh, Research Associate and Deepika Hungenahally, an Intern.